Israeli Test Prep Company HighQ Ordered Into Temporary Liquidation

Employees seeking court order say owner left country and has been running company by 'remote control'

11th graders in a Tel Aviv high school taking a test, February 23, 2011.
Nir Kafri

A temporary liquidator was appointed on Sunday for HighQ, one of Israel’s oldest test-preparation companies, after management failed to pay full March salaries to employees.

Attorney Hayut Greenberg, representing 50 of the company’s 200 employees, told the court that after several telephone conversations with Shem Levy, HighQ’s CEO and owner, she had learned that he had left Israel and given up his citizenship for “ideological reasons.”

She said he had been running the company by “remote control” from what she believed was Singapore for some time and that while he had been injecting capital into the business but had failed to turn it around.

None of the company’s employees had even met him, she said, which caused Judge Eitan Orenstein to respond, “I thought I has seen everything.” He named attorney Karen Reichbach-Segal as temporary liquidator.

HighQ is one the oldest companies in Israel offering students courses to prepare them for the bagrut (high school matriculation) exam, the psychometric exam that most institutes of higher education require for admission, and courses in spoken English. It counts 30 branches around the country and at any time is teaching some 2,000 students.

“News about the collapse of the company had spread like wildfire in all the media, causing a great deal of panic and worry among thousands of students who expected to take the psychometric and bagrut exams, and were supposed to attend classes on the eve of Passover and Hol Hamoed [the holiday’s five intermediate days in Israel],” the employees’ petition to the court said.

Greenberg said HighQ rivals offered to take on HighQ’s students, as had the Education Ministry. But in the court petition, employees expressed concern that rival companies would take advantage of the situation.